From the Daily Office Lectionary for Wednesday in the week of Proper 14, Year 1 (Pentecost 11, 2015)
Mark 10:25 ~ [Jesus said,] “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
I grew up with people (primarily my Methodist Sunday School teacher grandfather) telling me that this verse is about getting into heaven. Wrong! It’s taken me a lot of years to shake that teaching, but shake it one must, because it’s just plain wrong!
The first thing to notice about this statement is that the verbs (both of them “is”) are present tense. This is not a statement about the future, either a future in this life or a future after death. It’s not about the future; it’s about the present. It’s about now. “It IS easier … someone who IS rich …” Here and now.
The second thing to notice about this statement is that it never mentions heaven, paradise, afterlife, or whatever. Jesus does talk about getting into “the kingdom of God” but that’s not the way Jesus talks about life after death (something he actually doesn’t talk much about). “Kingdom of God” is the way Jesus talks about the life we are meant to be living now, about the reign of God in our lives as we live them in the current moment. Elsewhere (in other gospels) he uses the term “kingdom of heaven” or “eternal life” to mean the same thing.
When we see and accept those two things, then, we are left with a statement about the present, but what does it mean? As I pondered this throughout the day (which is why I’m so late in the day posting this meditation), I came to the realization that this is a statement about what today would be called “mindfulness.” To be mindful is to be quiet, alert, aware, undistracted; to be mindful is to notice that which usually escapes notice. Those who are “rich” live in a world of distractions, a world of objects which clamor for their attention, a world of possessions which cloud one’s attention.
In that world, one cannot “enter,” that is notice and be mindful of, the kingdom of God. When Jesus made this observation, Peter asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answer, again, is in the present tense: “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Salvation, the kingdom of God, is not a future thing; it is for the here and now. Mindfulness is the key to entering into it.